The real fun starts after the voting is over. Election night is always a bit of an adventure because, more often than not, each photographer has to cover multiple campaign parties. On Tuesday night I put veteran shooter Gary Krambeck on the candidates with parties in East Moline. Todd Welvaert concentrated on Rock Island based events and I was in Moline with the two Republican candidates vying for the nomination in the 72nd District.
The key to election night photo coverage is that you need to try and capture a happy photo, a serious looking photo and get to your next party. We start shooting about 7:30 pm and need to be back in the newsroom 10-ish. Covering a campaign party usually involves stalking the candidate as he greets guests and takes phone calls. Sometimes you get lucky and you get a genuine reaction to election results other times a hug or a smile has to pass for a winning candidate photo. There is nothing worse than walking to your car when you hear a big cheer come from the party you just left.
My first stop on the evening was Neil Anderson’s campaign party. After about a half-hour a few election results started to trickle in. His campaign manager asked for quiet in the small basement office and as she started to read the results I trained my camera on the candidate and his wife. She read the results from 3 or 4 precincts and they were all heavily in Anderson’s favor. The whole room went wild. I had my picture(s) and it was off to the next stop. It usually doesn’t go that smooth. Of course at 8 pm things could have changed but but it didn’t matter. Given space considerations for Wednesday’s paper I knew we were only going to use the winner’s reaction photo in this race. If Anderson was going to win my photos of him pumping his fist were perfect.
My next stop was Anderson’s opponent Jonathan Wallace. Wallace started his evening waiting for the election results at LaFlama Restaurant in Moline but later moved to the Republican headquarters a block away. I made one semi-interesting image at LaFlama of Wallace but since the election was still hanging in the balance I followed him down the street to the headquarters in hopes of getting a better reaction shot. I spent the next hour taking pictures of people staring at computer screens and smart phones waiting for the slow moving vote totals to be posted on the web.
As I photographed the youthful Republican crew it dawned on me that I might be photographing the dawn of a new era in Illinois Quad-Cities politics. In the past, on election night, the candidates always seemed to be older than me or at least about my age. The only 20-somethings running around were campaign volunteers or the kids of the candidate. The two candidates battling for the nomination in the 72nd District were both in their 20’s, Anderson, 29 and Wallace, 21. If you add 23-year-old Rock Island County Recorder candidate Tony Holland to the mix it made for a striking departure from past elections.
My favorite photo from the evening is Wallace’s girlfriend finding refuge outside on the sidewalk in front of the Republican headquarters trying to follow election results on her MacBook Pro. I found photographing these political newbies refreshing. I have spent my fair share of election nights hold up in a smoky bars with drunken politicos but Tuesday night was different. Both campaigns had a decidedly fresh look and as a result they were easy to photograph. Only time will tell how fresh Anderson will look in November after months of campaigning but for at least one election night I got to breath a little fresh air.